Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Unite imposes £700k fund-raising levy

Mrs Rigby thought she heard this mentioned on the radio the other day, but as she wasn't listening properly she thought she might have imagined it, however the story was carried by BBC on 29th March.

It appears that Unite union is to raise £700,000, and is planning to do this by imposing a levy of approximately £230 on each branch.

The money is, according to BBC, needed to pay £60 to each of the union members who were balloted (i.e. not necessarily only those who took strike action).

BBC quotes Mr Woodley as saying:
"This is an unprecedented move and it shows that Unite is absolutely determined to give our members all the support they deserve in winning this battle against ... BA"
Yes, it is unprecedented, and Mrs Rigby thinks it's a most peculiar thing for a union to do, especially as it's been in receipt of quite a bit of public money and appeared to be fairly wealthy - see here (about Union fees) and here (government funding).

Mrs Rigby thinks Unite must, surely, have made sure they had enough in their coffers to fund strike action so quite naturally wonders why they need this additional income - and need to raise it quickly.

The Mail carries a similar story but says
A proposal for a mandatory 2 per cent levy for the next quarter to support the BA strikers was approved by the union's general executive
and goes on to say that the money would
... go on strike pay and other ways of supporting union members involved in the dispute
Okay, fair enough, but the BBC reckons it would only be enough to give the strikers £60 each. Assuming the numbers quoted by Unite are correct - 12,000 strikers - it leaves them £20,000 short and doesn't allow for any of these extras.

But the Guardian 29th March said
Unite, which is paying cabin crew £30 a day, has agreed to pay crew for the duration of their roster duty if they walked out on a long-haul shift. Its main cabin crew branch, Bassa, has incurred expenses by hiring football club premises near Heathrow as strike headquarters and leasing minibuses to drive striking crew members to picket lines around the airport.
Mrs Rigby scents a large rodent - the figures simply don't add up and who, these days, can expect to pay their household bills (including mortgage etc) on the £30 a day quoted by the Guardian?

£30 a day is less than minimum wage.

Is the union out of touch with reality?

This isn't the 1970s and these people aren't impoverished labourers - and to be honest, £30 is a bit of an insult. These BA staff are used to earning considerably more than £30 a day, more than £60 a day too and are probably used to a fairly decent standard of living and are likely to have fairly high living costs.

So, will there be a next swathe of action? Can the union afford it? Can the strikers afford it?

As an aside, Mrs Rigby doesn't, actually, like what these pictures from the Mail show. It may be that these pictures indicate that the strikers aren't necessarily 'wealthy' enough to pay for decent childcare during industrial action

Children should have no place on, or near, the picket line, but their parent(s) and/or carers must have thought it was a reasonable place to spend a day out - either that or the children had nowhere else to go.

It would be interesting to know what Social Services would say if one of the parents/carers was a smoker as well as a striker.


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